Sierra Nevada Hoptimum Whole-Cone Imperial IPA

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s new Hoptimum Whole-Cone Imperial IPA has hit the shelves and we popped open a bottle to check it out in celebration of the impending weekend.  Hey, it doesn’t take much. Sierra Nevada has pours a lot of hops into this brew using German Magnum, Simcoe, Citra, Chinook and some “exclusive new hop varieties.” From a horticultural perspective, I’m curious whether/how Sierra Nevada developed these new hop variety.  It’s certainly cool to have an exclusive hop, but even cooler to see what various brewers can create out of it.  You probably never expected me to use the word “horticultural” in a sentence, eh?

Sierra says Hoptimum is the biggest whole-cone IPA they’ve ever produced and they’ll certainly get no argument from me.  This is a big beer in every sense of the word.  It pours a very bright, medium-copper color with a nice off-white head.  The aroma doesn’t just greet you, it stands up with a big neon sign and screams “HOPS.” Both pine/resin and citrus hops compete for your attention. Initial flavors of strong, sweet, caramel malt float in on a rather creamy, velvet mouthfeel and get replaced quickly by the pine/resin and citrus hop flavors represented in the aroma.  Despite the whopping 100 ibus, the bitterness level never rises above a pleasantly moderate level, allowing the hop flavors to rule.  That’s a function of the huge quantity of malt which drives the alcohol level up to 10.4% abv, balancing out the high hop level.  The malt also persists in an underlying sweetness that borders on being candy sweet.

The beer is a bit bigger – and sweeter – than Deschutes Brewery’s Hop Henge Experimental IPA which checks in at 9.0% and 95 ibus.  Overall, I prefer the slightly more bitter punch from the Hop Henge, but they’re both great beers and a fun beer experience.